The legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr blossomed on the field– some would say battle ground– of civil rights activism, yet he was far more that an activist for equality. Dr. King was also a pastor, a visionary and a humanitarian. This year, the many points of impact Dr. King had on society were honored by the 2016 MLK Day celebrations in the city of Snellville.
The day began with a celebration at City Hall, featuring keynote speaker Dr. Tommie Smith, winner of the gold medal in the 200-meter sprint competition at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. (Dr. Smith won the event in a record breaking time of 19.83 seconds.) While standing on the podium during the medal presentation, Dr. Smith and bronze medal winner John Carlos each raised a black gloved fist in a salute to human rights. The image of the two raised fists has become a symbol of the civil rights struggles of the 1960s. It has also made Dr. Smith an icon of that struggle. The city was fortunate to have a person of his stature as a keynote speaker for its MLK Day celebration.
Dr. Smith’s speech touched primarily on civil rights and equality initiatives, many of which trace their roots back to Dr. King. Also speaking at the event was Laura Drake, Executive Director of the Southeast Gwinnett Cooperative Ministries. Her words paid homage to Dr. King’s humanitarian efforts which are best exemplified by his question, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” Laura Drake and her staff are the embodiment of the perfect answer to that question as the sole focus of the Southeast Gwinnett Co-Op is helping others.
Following the activities at City Hall, attendees followed part of the route taken during the city’s first MLK Day celebration and marched out of City Hall to Wisteria Drive, where they joined a group that had marched from New Jerusalem Baptist Church. The joining of the two groups, which united and marched together to South Gwinnett High School, was an outstanding tribute to Dr. King, as it symbolized not only the unity and equality to which he dedicated his life, but the newly united Snellville.
At South Gwinnett High School, attendees enjoyed a lunch provided by New Jerusalem Baptist Church, entertainment, and speeches by the New Jerusalem’s pastor, Elijah Collins and by Snellville Mayor Tom Witts.
Also as part of the MLK Day activities, and in answer to Dr. King’s question, “What are you doing for others?”, Snellville City Council members and volunteers delivered a truckload of food to the Southeast Gwinnett Co-Op. The food collection and delivery is part of the Snellville-Grayson Challenge, an initiative begun last year to honor Dr. King and his commitment to helping others.
During this day of celebration of Dr. King’s life and work, people from diverse backgrounds joined together, worked together and celebrated together. Aside from the usual malcontents, harmony and unity defined the tenor and tone of the day, and established a new level of celebration. Next year’s MLK Day events promise to reach even greater heights and do even to answer the question, “What are you doing for others?